Message-ID: <>
Date: Mon, 2 Feb 1998 18:37:43 +0000
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
From: LabourNet <chrisbailey@GN.APC.ORG>
Subject: Morris says supporters gave ‘false hope’ to dockers

Exchange of letters in The Guardian

By John Pilger and Bill Morris, 2 February 1998

You referred to the climb-down of the Liverpool dockers (£10 million settlement ends Mersey dock dispute, January 27). The dockers did not climb down, they were let down, and forced to end their remarkable two-year struggle not because of any failure on their part. On the contrary, the action they inspired across the world, against the return of exploited, casual labour, galvanised thousands on every continent and was without precedent this century.

Their struggle in this country was lost because the Transport and General Workers' Union virtually guaranteed its failure. Had this rich and powerful organisation launched a national campaign challenging the sinister circumstances and the sheer injustice of the dockers' dismissal along with an assault on anti-trade union laws that most of the democratic world regard as a disgrace in a free country, the battle could have been won there and then.

Instead, it was the craven silence of the union leadership that finally ended the imaginative and courageous efforts of men once described by Lloyds List as the most productive work force in Europe and who represent Britain at its best.

John Pilger. London SW4.

It is a pity that the conclusion to the Liverpool dock dispute should provide an excuse for John Pilger to renew his vendetta against the Transport & General Workers' Union (Letters, January 29). Why does Mr Pilger always reserve his venom for workers' own organisations rather than bad employers or unjust laws? Indeed, it is John Pilger and others like him, with their message of false hope to the dockers and their families, who did more than anyone to prolong the agony.

For the record, the docks dispute on Merseyside has probably been the most expensive in the union's history. The union has, at all levels, spent over £1 million in relieving the hardship amongst the sacked dockers families and my senior colleagues and myself spent hundreds of hours in the search for a negotiated settlement.

That the dockers' solidarity and resilience did not succeed In securing their just demand for reinstatement is down to the most repressive anti union laws in the western world, not the T&G.

These are the facts. The view that victory could have been achieved if only the T&G had been prepared to ignore the law and put the entire union at risk is a fantasy, disproved by the history of the last 20 years.

Bill Morris.
General Secretary, T&G,
Transport House,
Palace Street,
SW16 5JD.